Employee Assistance Programs In COVID-19: How Can Employers Help

2 min read

Today, Half of Canadians report worsening mental health. The most common concerns reported include mental health struggles, financial difficulties and relationship issues. Yet, studies across various industries show that utilization of Employee Assistance Program (EAP’s) range from lows of 1% and highs of around 5%.

Now is a great time to change that by putting more emphasis on promoting your EAP to your employees! This is one of the best ways that you can support your employees through this challenging time.

One of the main obstacles that prevent EAPs from being utilized is the impact of stigma. In fact, stigma prevents 40% of people with anxiety and depression from seeking medical help.

According to a recent study, one of the top predictors of higher stigma is associated with lower levels of familiarity with EAPs.

So, what can employers do today to encourage their teams to access Employee Assistance Programs?

1. Remind employees of confidentiality

EAP services are confidential. No one will know that an employee has used EAP and their reason for accessing EAP, unless a written permission is provided by the employee. When we say no one, we mean no one – not your manager, not the owner of the company, not your friend or a spouse. This is a fundamental principle on which EAP programs are based on.

There is only one exception to this rule – if an employee is at risk of harming self or others, EAP provider is required to report the situation.

2. Educate employees on the basics of Employee Assistance Programs

Tell your employees what EAP is all about, how to access it, and what services are available. Remind them that access is available 24/7. Provide the phone number to call. Remind staff of access modalities of your EAP such as in person, telephone, video, text or online chat.

To help workers cope with the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, many EAP providers have specialized programs such as:

  • Understanding physical distancing, self-isolation, and self-quarantine
  • Coping with loneliness during self-isolation
  • How to be active and stay fit at home
  • Talking to children about COVID-19
  • Managing concerns and anxiety about infectious disease at work
  • Coping with a COVID-19 diagnosis
  • Working from home
  • Managing a team remotely
  • Leading in times of crisis
  • Using technology to connect
  • Dealing with financial uncertainty
  • Emotional well-being

Our recent blog on supporting employees coping with COVID-19 has more information on issues that are covered by EAPs during this pandemic.

3. Remind managers of the resources available to them

Many EAP’s offer specialized support and resources to managers and supervisors. This can include online resources, consultation services and advice. For example, EAP can help leaders deal with difficult situations and sensitive employee issues. Some topics of support can include:

  • Resources and guides on how to talk to employees about EAPs
  • How to help employees reduce job stress
  • Dealing with workplace conflict
  • Responding to critical incidents
  • Addressing workplace or domestic violence, and
  • Other sensitive issues

Our blog on educating employees on benefits offers additional tips on promoting your benefit programs to your employees and creating a wellness culture.

If you have any questions about how employee assistance programs work, and how to best promote them to your staff, don’t hesitate to reach out to us – we’re here to help!